Hastings United manager Chris Agutter admits there’s been interest from other football clubs in three of his top players.
Last season’s leading scorer Daniel Ajakaiye, fellow forward Davide Rodari and midfielder Adam Lovatt are all attracting attention from elsewhere.
All three are contracted to the Bostik League South East Division club until the end of next term and Hastings would therefore receive a transfer fee should another club wish to sign them.
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“There’s been interest in Davide already off the back of his form towards the end of last season,” said Agutter. “He will openly admit he’s not ready to go just yet because he’s not quite where he was before the injury (which sidelined him for most of last season).
“He needs a really decent pre-season and to hit the ground running next year for him to even start thinking about progressing back to a higher level.
“Adam’s got a lot of interest from a lot of clubs at the minute, and Daniel’s got a bit of interest from the National League and League Two.
“Adam Lovatt, for me, is the best holding midfield player in the league and I think Daniel got 34 goals. The most likely to stay is Davide and he will stay unless a really good offer comes in.”
Agutter previously revealed that Rodari was close to joining Championship club Millwall until suffering a ruptured anterior cruciate ligament injury last summer.
Lovatt almost joined League One outfit AFC Sunderland at the end of the January transfer window, and trained with Leeds United and Leicester City during the 2018/19 campaign.
Another talented young Hastings player, Jamie Fielding, signed for League Two side Stevenage last month.
In terms of other players, Lanre Azeez and Sam Adams have now committed to Hastings for next season, joining Jack Dixon and Gary Elphick, plus new recruits Ben Pope and Aaron Condon.
Dan Hull, a product of the club’s academy, has signed a contract with the club until the end of next season and will come in to the first team squad.
The tall left-footed defender has played for Hastings at under-23, under-19 and under-18 levels, and trained regularly with the first team. He also scored the winning goal for Hollington United in the Sussex Intermediate Challenge Cup final during April.
Agutter also said the club is talking to two other players from outside the club, one of whom Hastings are ‘aggressively pursuing’.
As for players leaving the club, Jahmal Howlett-Mundle, Hassan Ibrahiym, Charlie Horlock, Antonio Walker and Sonny Dullaway have been released.
“We’re talking to others well,” continued Agutter. “It’s not very nice, but it’s part of the job.
“The squad was perhaps a little bit too bloated. The number of players we had was probably too much. At times we could’ve perhaps gone with a slightly more settled side. If you look at Cray, their 16-man squad hasn’t changed at all, give or take one or two.
“One of the things we’re looking to improve on is the size of the squad. And if we’re going to go with a small squad, we need to make sure the players are capable of playing Saturday and Tuesday, and they don’t have checkered injury records.
“We’re perhaps going to go with a leaner squad, but also clearing a pathway for players at the club. What we believe in is producing our own players and it’s really important they can actually break through.
“Jahmal I thought had a really good season, but Jahmal going means we can bring in Dan Hull and give him the opportunity.
“I’ve said before it’s the best dressing room I’ve ever been involved in, it’s really close-knit. We’re hoping to make that close-knit group even closer while still trying to build on what we did last year.”
Such is the culture at the club nowadays, Agutter says that most of the players haven’t stopped training since the end of last season.
Training for selected players, which will be optional for the rest of the squad, will start at the end of June and the whole first team squad will be back on July 11.
“I’m pretty relaxed about it, it’s coming together,” added Agutter. “It’s just a case of getting the right business done and if we do miss out on people for whatever reason, we don’t just jump the gun and go to the next one.
“It’s important we don’t bring anyone in who’s not better than what we’ve already got in the building.”
* HASTINGS United Football Club’s annual summer programme of Pilot Field maintenance works will begin this coming Saturday.
In what has become an annual and much-appreciated ritual, the club would welcome the assistance of any supporters who can devote a few hours of their time on a Saturday from 9.30am until approximately 1pm to assist with the smartening up of internal and external facilities at The Pilot Field.
The club thanks in advance any supporters who are able to assist with any works, and its in-house photographer Scott White for agreeing once again to undertake and manage the works.